Work in progress for Blue

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:20 AM ET

EDMONTON -- It was a homecoming to forget for Stefan LeFors, and it wasn't the start Mike Kelly was looking for in his return to the Blue and Gold.

Yet the retooled and rebuilding Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who went into the game as 81/2-point underdogs, had a glorious opportunity to win their season-opener last night against the Edmonton Eskimos.

The Bombers were lined up for a potential game-tying 42-yard field goal with five seconds remaining, but an illegal procedure penalty against offensive lineman Brendon LaBatte pushed it back five yards.

Sailed left

Serna's 47-yard attempt sailed left, and the Esks escaped with a 19-17 win for their first-year head coach, Richie Hall, in front of 30,650 soaked spectators on a rainy night at Commonwealth Stadium.

LeFors had a rough go of it in his first start as Winnipeg's new starting quarterback, completing only 14 of 31 passes for 174 yards. He did, however, guide the Blue and Gold 55 yards in the final two minutes when it mattered most, giving his team a shot at overtime.

Kelly, who was also making his professional head coaching debut last night, has a week to make some corrections before next Friday's home-opener against the Calgary Stampeders, who are also 0-1.

Backup safety Shawn Gallant scored Winnipeg's first touchdown of the season midway though the third quarter when he scooped up a kickoff-return fumble by Tristan Jackson and rumbled 20 yards for the score, tying the game at 9-9.

Bombers linebacker Joe Lobendahn forced the fumble with a huge hit.

Jackson responded well, however, taking the ensuing kickoff 56 yards to Winnipeg's 38-yard line.

Four plays later, Ricky Ray's one-yard plunge put the Esks up 16-9.

Noel Prefontaine then booted a 19-yard field goal with 7:40 remaining in the fourth that gave the Eskimos a 19-9 advantage.

The Bombers weren't done, though.

LeFors unleashed his best toss of the night, a 54-yard completion to Terrence Edwards, and Fred Reid darted 16 yards for a touchdown that made it a 19-16 game with 6:06 to go.

The Eskimos led 9-2 at half-time after quite possibly the most boring first half in the history of professional football.

The Bombers broke the 0-0 tie with 5:09 left in the second quarter when Eskimos punter Noel Prefontaine conceded a safety, but Winnipeg's Mike Renaud gave it right back two minutes later with his own surrendered two-pointer.

Ricky Ray finally got the Esks going late in the second, needing only three plays to go 60 yards and get into the end zone. Ray hit Andrew Nowacki with a 19-yard touchdown to put the hosts up for the first time.

It started pouring midway through the first quarter, which didn't help things, but neither side could get anything going offensively.

Winnipeg's defence had eight straight two-and-outs in the first half before Edmonton's first touchdown.

There were 17 punts.

The only yardage the Bombers ate up in the first half was through their unique reverse play. Running backs Reid and Lavarus Giles lined up 11 yards behind the line of scrimmage, and a receiver streaked behind the quarterback, sometimes taking the ball.

Receiver Brock Ralph made the most hay with the play, rushing twice for a team-leading 34 yards in the first half.


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